- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 9, 2007

Ross Detwiler, the Washington Nationals’ first pick in Thursday’s draft, meet Balor Moore — the first first-round pick in the history of the franchise in 1969.

Let’s hope that this left-hander fares better than the left-handed Moore, who pitched eight years in the majors with the Expos, Angels and Blue Jays but had a 28-48 record with a 4.52 ERA — not exactly a sterling legacy for the first player ever selected by a franchise that would eventually develop a reputation as a model for player development.

Baseball history for Nationals fans is forever cursed by the schizophrenia of Washington baseball history and franchise history, two different things that Major League Baseball has saddled fans with.

The record books for this franchise are the ones that began in Montreal that first season in 1969, but I suspect in the hearts of most local baseball fans, the 1969 draft pick that means something to them was the first player taken in the draft that year — Jeff Burroughs, who was drafted by the Senators.

Two years later, the last first-round draft choice ever by the Washington Senators was a right-handed pitcher from Galveston, Texas, named Roger Quiroga. His career was cut short because of an arm injury, but he went on to become mayor of Galveston.

The Washington Nationals hope Detwiler’s destiny is the one they have mapped out for him.

Ross Detwiler will be an outstanding major league pitcher,” said Bob Boone, assistant general manager and vice president of player development.

If that is the case, it would be the exception for this franchise, which despite its player development reputation throughout the 1980s and 1990s, has not fared well in the first round.

The Expos, before moving to Washington for the 2005 season, drafted 16 pitchers in the first round, and you could make the case that only one of those picks ever became “an outstanding major league pitcher” — Bill Gullickson, the No. 2 overall pick in 1977 who won 162 major league games, including 20 for the Detroit Tigers in 1991.

The next best draft pick among pitchers is one that is familiar to Nationals fans — closer Chad Cordero, their first round choice in 2003. The jury is still out on the Expos’ first-round pick in 1996, starter John Patterson.

Along the way, there have been a host of busts — Bob Janey, Darren Dilks, Rich Stoll, David Wainhouse, Bill Wallace and others — all of whom were supposed to be “outstanding major league pitchers.”

The mighty Expos player development machine didn’t exactly distinguish itself in the first round all these years with position players, either. They hit on some who went on to have good major league careers — Tim Wallach, their first-round selection in 1979, and Delino DeShields in 1987 — but the rule has been Kevin Dean, Bob Caffrey, Art Miles and Glenn Franklin.

Maybe Josh Smoker, the 31st pick, will be an “outstanding major league pitcher” someday.

After all, Randy Johnson was a second-round pick by the Expos in 1985. Or maybe the star of the 2007 draft will be University of Arizona first baseman Bill Rhinehart, the Nationals’ 11th-round choice. In 1975, in the 11th round, the Expos selected an outfielder named Andre Dawson.

Of course, back then they didn’t have the Caliper personality test, which Nationals general manager Jim Bowden says he gives of his players. According to Caliper’s Web site, they might be able to keep a team from making a Balor Moore mistake:

“A client team needed to fill a particular position where they were ‘weak’ by way of the draft. There was a highly publicized player in whom they were interested. After testing a number of players, we suggested though this highly publicized player would be extremely good, he would not be able to provide the leadership required for this position. In turn, we suggested another young man be selected. This second player had dwindled in the estimation of some because he had not appeared at certain pre-draft camps and so, our client decided to continue with their selection of the first, more ‘media popular’ player. As it turned out, the player they selected performed ‘adequately’ at times. The second, less publicized player was drafted in the second round by another team, performed brilliantly and in fact, was selected for the All-Rookie team.”

Then again, Quiroga may have scored high on the Caliber test, given his leadership qualities. But the Senators weren’t looking for a mayoral candidate. They wanted a pitcher.

Bowden said Detwiler “scored the highest on the Caliper test [of] any player we have given the test to since I’ve been in Washington.”

Which could mean either he will be an outstanding major league pitcher or someday mayor of his hometown of Wentzville, Mo.



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